Tariq Ramadan is not a victim
While the master of double talk just died, others are using the same strategy to advance their somber cause. I am of course talking of Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat who used and abused double talk. While he pretended in English that he had turned the page on his terrorist past to become a respectable statesman, his rhetoric in Arabic never moved an iota. By not having paid attention to his speeches in Arabic, the whole world fell into Arafat's trap, except some outstanding visionaries such as Norman Podhoretz who had his eyes and ears wide open. The new students of Arafat's success are hard at work in putting his advice into action.
But the real new king of double talk is the Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. He became famous (or rather infamous) in the USA because, for the time being, a very wise move of the Department of Homeland Security forbids him entry to our country to start teaching at Notre Dame University. Just a few days ago, he decided to resign from this job because he had not received permission to live and work in the US. Today Ramadan wrote a piece in the Los Angeles Times describing his ordeal, and very astutely used the angle of the Patriot Act and the supposed restriction of freedom in the US.
Mr. Ramadan pretends he is being attacked because of his lineage. It is true that Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. Also, Said Ramadan, Tariq's father, was one of their leaders in the 1950's before being expelled by Egypt's then—ruler Nasser. Most European Secret Service agencies and others, including Antoine Sfeir, the very knowledgeable editor of the French magazine specializing in the Middle East, Les Cahiers de L'Orient, are also convinced that, at the end of the 1980's, the Muslim Brotherhood picked Tariq Ramadan to be their European representative. But most importantly, Ramadan's view of the world is identical to that of the Muslim Brotherhood. He is a fervent supporter of his grandfather's and father's views, and constantly teaches their precepts to young Muslims. And that is why he is being pointed out and not simply because he is Al Banna's grandson.
Ramadan spent most of the 1990's in France, preaching to the young Muslim community, offering them the solution to their everyday problems: Islam. Coincidentally the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood is: 'Islam is the solution.' Ramadan's concept worked very well and explains partly the radicalization of the young French Muslim community. For Ramadan, the West is in a moral decay, and should therefore not give moral advice to the Muslim world. Islam is going to represent the spiritual renewal of the world. He now symbolizes the view, as Jacques Jormier, one of the leading Islam experts, puts it: one 'does not modernize Islam but Islamize modernity.'
Ramadan also wants us to believe that he forcefully called on Muslims to condemn the September 11 attacks. Here are the facts:
Ramadan said on September 13, 'even though we didn't know then exactly who did it —— but we know. They were some Muslims." Then and it gets really interesting : in an interview on September 22, 2001 Ramadan explained with his usual gifted vagueness that he couldn't say for sure that bin Laden is behind the attacks. He then asked the question:' who profits from the crime?' and answered that no Arab or Muslim cause would be better off. This is weirdly the argument of Islamists who accused Israel and the Jews of being the masterminds of the September 11 atrocities. In an interview with French newsmagazine Le Point, Ramadan evoked what he called the 'interventions of New York, Bali or Madrid.' So, September 11 was not a terrorist attack, it was rather just an 'intervention.' Of course, nowhere in this interview did Ramadan condemn terrorism.
Ramadan's links to terrorism are multiple: In 1995, in the midst of a series of terrorist attacks in Paris orchestrated by the GIA —— the Algerian Islamist terrorist movement — Jean Louis Debre, French Interior Minister, forbade Ramadan entrance to France because of his links to the Algerian terrorist group.
According to Roland Jacquard, President of the International Observatory of Terrorism, Ramadan is not directly involved in terrorist activities but most of his supporters are. His links to shady individuals or networks are numerous. According to the French daily newspaper, Le Monde, he is suspected of having links with al Qaeda. In fact, Ramadan is said to have organized a meeting back in 1991 between Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's number two, and Omar Abdel Rahman, plotter of the first World Trade Center bombing. Other troubling allegations can be found in a lawsuit filed by the victims of the September 11 attacks: Ramadan greatly influenced Djamel Beghal, a French citizen arrested for plotting to bomb the US Embassy in Paris. According to Sylvain Besson from the Swiss daily Le Temps, the court papers show that Djamel Beghal 'was in charge of preparing Tariq Ramadan's speech.' Ramadan has always answered that he never met Beghal and refused to comment after Besson left numerous messages at his home. Also — major coincidence — I just uncovered that Beghal was living in Leicester in 1998, while (surprise!) Ramadan was studying at the Islamic university of Leicester. A few months ago, in an interview with Swiss TV, Jean Charles Brisard, one of the most respected terrorism experts, explained that Ramadan participated at a conference this summer in London with Yussef al Qaradawi, who justified the September 11 attacks along with suicide bombings in general, and called recently for the killings of American soldiers and civilians alike in Iraq. Brisard added that Ramadan needed to be closely watched because of the influence he has in possibly radicalizing some Muslims. Ramadan refused to debate Mr. Brisard. Does he have something to hide?
Lastly, regarding Ramadan's terrorist links, Daniel Pipes, the renowned Middle East expert, recently reported that he met a senior Department of Homeland Security official a few weeks ago who looked him hard in the eyes and assured him, "The evidence we have is damning."
Lots of prominent moderate Muslims are also accusing Ramadan of double talk and hijacking Islam for a dangerous project. Most of his detractors are coincidentally Muslim. For instance, the head of the French Muslim Council and head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, declared recently, 'when one invites Tariq Ramadan, it is not to listen to what Allah and the angels said; Ramadan is the vehicle of fundamentalist Islam.'
Ramadan pretends in his Los Angeles Times piece that none of his detractors have read his books or articles. But unfortunately for him, in the just released book Brother Tariq, Caroline Fourest, a French specialist on fundamentalism, methodically studied every single book he wrote, but even more importantly, his tapes, which are sold in the tens of thousands each year. She exposes Ramadan for what he is: a dangerous Islamist. Her conclusion is crystal clear: 'Ramadan is a war leader.'
Ramadan in an article on oumma.com, which he often uses as his conduit to freely express his views, — the website of the UOIF (the main French Muslim organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood), accuses Fourest of being an agent of Israel. Smartly, as usual, Ramadan wrote about Fourest, 'a long—time militant for whom every criticism of Israel is anti—Semitism; a prot é of Bernard Henri Levy.' Also interestingly enough, he never refutes the facts advanced by Fourest. He finishes his article by writing that History marches in the direction of the Muslims. But more importantly, Ramadan linked to his article his recent performance on a talk show on the Swiss TV network, Television Suisse Romande.
Ramadan showed his skills of talker and politician, remaining vague but sounding very modern. But as usual, when he is cornered for a long time, his true face appears. When asked by a Swiss Congresswoman of Algerian origin and an ex—Muslim — everything that Ramadan abhors — about the condition of woman regarding slavery, excision, polygamy, and stoning, Ramadan lost it. First, he answered that he should not have to justify his positions; he is not sitting at his trial. Then when cornered by this Congresswoman about the obligation imposed on Muslim women and girls to wear the hijab, Ramadan fired back in a despicable tone: 'you and your Western arrogance.' So much for a moderate who supposedly wants to build bridges between the West and Islam!!
Ramadan has been playing for the past fifteen years his favorite role: the victim. Once more with this column in the Los Angeles Times, he wants Americans to believe he is a peaceful moderate Muslim whose goal is to bring together religions.
I suspect that Ramadan chose to come to the US because his numerous gaffes have shown his real face in Europe. And for the Muslim Brotherhood and Ramadan's ancestors, the real grand prize has always been the USA.
Beware, true Islamists have learned to wear a mask to better fool us. And Ramadan's savoir—faire in pretending to be a very moderate Muslim has fooled more than one.
Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specialized in the Middle East and Europe.